Wednesday, October 3, 2007

The second cabin and property progress

The second cabin is starting to look like it may some day be habitable. Tom and Selwyn installed all the doors, so it looks good from the outside. They also pulled all the nails out of the walls, and, since Selwyn finished tearing out the ceiling, they were able to remove most of the wiring. They installed the framework for shower floors, and plan to build the showers with plycem before they put the outside walls on the bathrooms. The final activity of the week was to spray the cabin with Dursban to kill all the creepie crawlies that have been living in there, and shut it up for the weekend. Selwyn is taking off on Monday, so Tom sprayed Friday morning and shut it up for four days. Tom finished his materials list for what’s needed to finish the cabin, and between a trip to San Ignacio yesterday and a planned trip to Spanish Lookout tomorrow, we should be able to get most of what we need to turn that cabin into two real guest rooms. We ordered the remaining tile we needed for the bathrooms yesterday, and that should be here in about two weeks, so with any luck we’ll be down to the final job of tiling the showers two or three weeks from now. Just like with our first cabin, “dos semanas mas!”

After spraying the cabin Friday morning, we decided it was time to go out and collect star grass for the front pasture. We’ve been buying star grass hay and the horses like it, and star grass grows all over on the sides of the road here, and Selwyn says that if you cut it and spread it in a pasture it will grow. Most of the weeds in the front pasture died after Tom sprayed them last week, so Selwyn cut us some crotched sticks, and we took our machetes and headed for a star grass patch on the road to San Antonio. It’s not hard to collect. You just take the short arm of the crotched stick and hold the grass, which grows in mats, up enough to get the machete under and cut it. You hack around in a circle and make a big pile of grass, then roll that up and throw it in the back of the truck. It was funny because it only took us about a half hour to fill the back of our pickup, but in that half hour Selwyn, who used to do this for Blancaneaux, did about twice as much as Tom and I combined. We brought it home and spread it in the pasture, and now we’re just waiting for it to grow. Selwyn says we should see it starting to turn green in about a week, and he said it will start to spread and grow within two to three weeks. We’re keeping our fingers crossed that it works so we can start to have our own hay source for our horses.

Rainstorms this week filled the 1000 gallon collection tank next to the shop; and Tom is finishing the plumbing today so we can pump that water up the hill to be gravity fed to the house. We were amazed at how quickly a few good showers can produce 1000 gallons off a metal roof, but fairly small showers added about two to three inches of water each in the tank, and then one big one filled it the rest of the way. Lots of people around here drink rain water they collect, but since none of our tanks look all that clean, we think we’ll continue to drink bottled water. We’ve scrubbed the tanks with bleach and keep them closed, but somehow leaves and twigs and little bits of dirt and bugs get in there, so all the tanks have things floating on the top of the water or sitting on the bottom of the tank.

Ronald and Wilton worked Sunday morning, and part of Ronald’s job was to get the strangler fig vine out of one of our almond trees.

Ronald says he likes climbing way up in the trees and doing this, although everyone else was content to watch and shout instructions.

They also picked up and bagged the rest of the coconuts from the front and middle pastures and distributed the good ones to our neighbors, who will undoubtedly be eating lots of coconut rice over the next few weeks. The three of them also planted about 20 more coconut trees along the road and replaced 2 that died along side the driveway.

We’re getting lots of produce from our trees. Midweek, I picked enough ripe grapefruit to last us until sometime this week, and enough avocados for us, Selwyn’s whole family, and all of the neighbors. We’re also getting a few tangerines and limes, and I’m getting lettuce and basil and a few tomatoes out of my garden. The citrus trees are all loaded with fruit, so when they get ripe I think we’ll be providing everyone we know down here with citrus for a few weeks.

On Saturday, we finally went to Angie’s restaurant in Santa Elena. Angie is a friend of Frank, who works in Noah’s real estate office, and Angie, Frank, and Angie’s kids came out here to visit us a few months ago. They’re the ones who showed up just in time for escabeche and tortillas for lunch one day and after I’d spent weeks avoiding making tortillas for Belizean cooks, I found out that Angie not only cooks, but owns and runs a good restaurant. Anyway, ever since then, Tom and I had been meaning to go to her restaurant for lunch, but never had the time until yesterday. We had a great lunch, and a couple of hours of very enjoyable conversation with Angie, Frank, and Angie’s daughter Becky. Angie remarked on how much our Spanish has improved in a couple of months, and in addition to giving us a free lunch, she sent us home with a box of plants which she saw we needed when she saw our just started gardens when they were here.
Besides being a whiz of a cook, Angie is a whiz of a gardener. The walls of her restaurant are concrete halfway up, and the top half is cast iron lattice with flowering vines and hedges just outside, which makes the restaurant a delightful shady place to kill a couple of hours on a Saturday afternoon.

It’s coffee and peanut season here, and the neighbors have all been busy working and picking the crops. As I’ve ridden the horses around the farm roads outside of San Antonio, fields that looked deserted a few weeks ago are now busy with peanut pickers. It’s all done by hand, so one crew goes through and pulls up the peanut plants, laying them back on the ground root side up to expose the peanuts. Another crew comes through and pulls the peanuts off the roots, and then a third crew goes through and picks up all the peanut tops to be dumped in a compost heap somewhere. The buckets of peanuts are then spread out on blue tarps to dry in the sun, and everywhere you go around here right now it looks like people have just graveled their yards because they have tarps full of peanuts everywhere. It appears that peanut season is a little trickier than bean season, because while the beans are dried in the same way, they were harvested in the dry season so they could be left out for days at a time. Now, it rains almost every afternoon, so somebody has to run out and cover up the peanuts.

We’re not quite sure what happens with the coffee, but all of our neighbors have been going up to the farm associated with the Hidden Valley resort and picking coffee. It grows on small trees, and they pick the ripe beans and put them in buckets. The farm dries them and keeps some to grind for the resort’s restaurant, and sells the rest, either ground or whole. We’re not coffee drinkers so we haven’t tried it, but we’re told the coffee is pretty good. Our neighbors are getting us some coffee tree seedlings so that we can eventually serve our guests home-grown coffee provided, of course, that my black thumb doesn’t take over and kill the coffee trees. And, we’ll just have to hope that if the coffee is awful somebody will tell us so we can stop serving it since neither Tom nor I would know a good cup of coffee from a bad one.

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